Saturday, September 16, 2017

TRACK II eclectic group of enthusiasts of better US-Russia relations

An ordinary Thursday in St.Petersburg

[Facebook entry posted here with Mr. Iljine's kind ok]
After breakfast with our TRACK II eclectic group of enthusiasts of better US-Russia relations ( )

Consisting on this trip to St.Petersburg of: 

Dulce Murphy – Executive Director, Track Two

Michael Murphy – Co-Founder, Director, Esalen Institute and Executive Director, Center for Theory & Research, Esalen Institute and author (US)

Antonina Bouis – Board member, Track Two, Advisory Board Member, The Hermitage, literary translator (US)

Jean Claude Bouis – writer, editor, photographer, formerly journalist with the Associated Press, New York Times and Standard & Poors (US)

Lizbeth Hasse – Board member, Track Two, lawyer, negotiator, mediator with an international practice in intellectual property, mediation and commercial law; advisor, Heart to Heart (US)

Nic Iljine – International cooperation consultant, author and editor; Advisor to the General Director of the State Hermitage (DE)

Christa Iljine – education expert, editor (DE)

J. Mitchell Johnson – film maker, producer, documentarian working on Fort Ross media project; living in Rostov-on-Don (RU)

Svetlana Johnson – Russian painter living in Rostov-on-Don (RU) 

Evelyn Messinger - Executive Director of CitizensChannel, is a television, Internet and cross-platform media producer (US)

Joe Orrach - actor, dancer and story-teller who works in live theater, television, and film (US)

Ksenia Semenova - journalist, editor and public relations expert. She is currently the Executive Editor of the Russian-language site The Question in Moscow (RU)

Kim Spencer – Founder, Link TV, journalist and film director 

Virginia (Ginger) Thomson – Senior Consultant to Track Two, strategy, development; consultant to technology start-ups and NGO’s (US)

We visited Tom Leary, General Consul of the USA, in the beautiful residence on Grodnensky Pereulok.

His wife Rachel and long term Public Affairs/Culture officer Tatyana Kosmynina were there too and were lively participants of the discussion during our 90 minute visit.

Tom Leary is the most culturally affine US Foreign Office diplomat I have ever met.
In fact this is his second St. Petersburg posting, having served as Public Affairs Officer there from 1999-2001. Following his first St. Petersburg assignment, he served as Press Attaché at the Embassy in Moscow from 2001-2004 and to more exotic places in between. 

We made a joint “tour d’horizon” of our respective activities and we learnt a lot and Tom was very supportive of our activities and goals in spite of the fact that we proclaim “citizen diplomacy” as opposed to governmental.

Next stop, after a quick lunch at “Pushka Inn” was the European University of St.Petersburg We had a look at their sumptuous palazzo building which they have to leave soon by moving to another more modest but more practical building just across the road.

Our interlocutors were:

1. Prof. Veljko Vujachic, Provost

2. Prof. Nikita Lomagin, Vice-Rector for GR, Academic Director of MA ‘Energy Politics in Eurasia’ (ENERPO) 

3. Dr. Maria Trofimova, Dean of Int’l programs

4. Dr. Gevorg Avetikian, Executive Director of MA in Russian and Eurasian Studies (IMARES)

5. Maxim Titov, Director of ENERPO Research Center, former senior officer at IFC.

The theme was a future (maybe May 2018) dialogue round between American and Russian Graduate students on the subject of how the image of a country is formed;

factors like personal experience, media, education, stereotypes, propaganda, influence of parents & friends, Hollywood films etc. Other subjects such as common threats & problems, economic factors, environmental problems, journalist training etc.

Cultural highlight of the evening was the 45 minute solo performance of our Track II activist Joe Orrach in the St.Petersburg Theatre Club expertly managed by the “mother hen” of all the local actors Larissa Romanovna Novikova.

“IN MY CORNER” was written by Joe’s muse & wife Lizbeth Hasse and Joe plays five roles: 

A Puerto Rican kid growing up and playing in the Bronx

Joe is 25

Joe as a strict & unforgiving father at the age of 30 with a strong Puerto Rican accent

Joe’s mother slightly older than 30 speaking with a nasal Bronx accent

Toni Fortupiano, over 60, boxing trainer

It was a pitty that the stage floor was not wooden because that would have enhanced the sound of his tap dancing !

The music was composed by Matt Clark who was at the piano . Dynamic Dan Gonzalez was at the drums, two of which were conjured up in 24 hours by Lifestyle & Design Hedonist Alexey Bezobrazov.

Joe Orrach is an actor, dancer and story-teller who works in live theater, television, and film. His performing career started as a boxer. He was the Welterweight Champion of the US Air Force, he took ballet for his footwork, then became a tap dancer on the streets of NYC.

On stage, Joe has performed with Joan Baez, Bob Hope, the Smothers Brothers, Michael Davis, Liliane Montevecchi, Bill Irwin, David Shiner, Melissa Manchester, and the Cookie Monster, among others.

He has tap danced with such greats as Gregory Hines, Jimmy Slyde and Savion Glover, and old masters including the Nicholas Brothers, Honi Coles, Charles “Cookie” Cook, Chuck Green and Lon Cheney. He has been directed by Woody Allen (Everyone Says I Love You), James Mangold (Copland), Tim Boxell (Valley of the Heart’s Delight), Stefan Haves (Punch Drunk) and David Shiner (Nacht Mund).

With an MFA from University of Southern California’s School of Dramatic Arts, he also enjoys teaching and is known for his skill at helping students find their own voices and stories through rhythm and movement. Joe is currently touring two of his original works IN MY CORNER, a play with an original score by Matt Clark, directed by Jeremiah Chechik, that Joe wrote with Lizbeth Hasse and STReeT/FeaT, an original work for 3 dancers and 3 musicians that premiered in 2015 at Theatre de Suresnes, Paris..

Each year, the Joe Orrach Performance Project (JOPP) under Joe’s leadership reaches hundreds of high school students with programs that help them use their bodies, voices and talents to tell their own stories.

Anyway, after the performance which was widely applauded by the young public we gathered in the Club’s restaurant for drinks and talks with the guests which included many students of ballet & theatre. One expert, Viktor Abramovich Novikov, Artistic Director of the St.Petersburg State Academic V.E.Komissarzhevskaya Drama Theatre told me and Tom Leary that he was stunned by the brilliance of Joe’s performance and that he wants to see him on other stages in Russia’s Northern Cultural Capital !
1 post

No comments: